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Paradise Valley Town Council to accept spire atop Ascension Lutheran Church in historical preservation pursuit

Photo of Ascension Lutheran
The spire today sits atop the Ascension Lutheran Church in the Town of Paradise Valley as new owners of the property seek to rezone the site for an envisaged single-family home development. The above is a contemplated, early rendering of what could become a local historical landmark. (Graphic: PHX Architecture/DigitalFreePress)
Ascension Lutheran to be demolished but new life looks likely for spire
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

A historical architectural preservation effort — one with adjacent ties to famed American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright — is afoot in the Town of Paradise Valley.

Paradise Valley residents, elected leaders and local architectural aficionados came together yesterday to discuss how a 77-foot spire designed by a student of Mr. Wright’s hailing from Taliesin West in the 1960s can be preserved in perpetuity.

The spire today sits atop the Ascension Lutheran Church in the Town of Paradise Valley as new owners of the property seek to rezone the site for an envisaged single-family home development — one with four individual homes destined to sprout atop 5.328 acres found at 7100 N. Mockingbird Lane.

“Shortly after starting in this capacity, here in July 2023, the church site had been sold and we learned the church property would not survive,” Paradise Valley Town Manager Andrew Ching said at the onset of the June 13 work session discussion at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

“As a result there were a number of people in this community who came together to determine if there is something to come out of that site that is feasible. What you will see today is a very specific ask: Our ask is for the town to accept this gift.”

Mr. Ching explained the new owners of the property — CHM Holding, LLC, a Nevada limited liability company represented by expert Zoning Attorney Doug Jorden — have agreed to gift the 77-foot spire to the Town of Paradise Valley, at no charge.

Ascension Lutheran to be demolished but new life looks likely for spire

In the early 1960s, the Ascension Lutheran building and spire were designed by Willam Wesley Peters, a long-time apprentice and son-in-law of Mr. Wright’s, part of the then-established Taliesin Associated Architects.

Paradise Valley resident and volunteer Scott Jarson offered to Town Council during his June 13 work session presentation the work of Historical Advisory Committee Chair Catherine Kauffman and Councilwoman Christine LaBelle played an instrumental role in organizing the historical preservation effort.

“This is a reflection of our past and our future,” Mr. Jarson pointed out to Town Council. “We think we can re-purpose the spire as this is pretty much a zero cost gift and we have begun to explore ideas of where it could go.”

Councilwoman LaBelle explained to her colleagues the historical preservation effort is in tune with tenets of the existing General Plan.

“I believe trying to save the spire is in line with the town’s General Plan,” she said following Ms. Kauffman comments to Town Council regarding the grassroots effort. “Being in line with the General Plan and being a no-cost gift we need a place to put it until we figure out where it should go permanently.”

Residents who came to Town Hall to discuss the preservation effort pointed out the contributions of fellow volunteers:

  • Erik Peterson
  • Jochen Walther
  • Eric O’Malley
  • James Trahan
  • Michael Perino
  • C.P. Drewett

Architect Erik Peterson of PHX Architecture — who just finished the lauded remodel of the Arizona Biltmore — has put together an initial rendering of what a landmark spire in the Town of Paradise Valley could look like.

“I am familiar with how they and how they should be maintained,” he said pointing out his work at the Arizona Biltmore with the creation of the spire bar at the Phoenix resort property. “I certainly appreciate you considering this today and would love to see something like this here in the town.”

Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner, along with his colleagues, agree the preservation of the spire is a good community effort.

“For me, at the very least, this is a situation for us as a team to find the common interest and to find a win-win,” he said. “I have to applaud our staff and everyone who has worked on this to get it here — there is great energy about this.”

Paradise Valley Town Council gave the proverbial head nod to accept the gift of the spire, but next steps to emerge were not discussed.

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